Saturday, March 27, 2010

What I do

I guess I assume that when I say "I'm a library cataloger," everyone knows what that means. Then I remember, "Oh, yeah, six years ago when I was teaching college English, I didn't even know the occupation existed, let alone what a cataloger did." I make sure that every item in the library can be looked up in the catalog, so a patron can see a full bibliographic record that describes that item in detail. Remember the old card catalog cards that us Boomers grew up with? Basically, I make sure the information that used to be on those cards but is now accessed via computer (title, author, publication date, page numbers, subject headings, etc.) is correct and retrievable. [The image below is from OCLC (Online Computer Library Center)]

I catalog all of our library's non-fiction books, juvenile and teen books, and DVD's, so this also means handling every such item, checking for the cataloging info. For books, this is fairly straightforward, though I do have to flip through each book checking to see if things like indexes, bibliographical references, or plates ("primarily illustrative" pages which are not numbered--usually the glossy photo pages in the middle of many non-fiction books) are present. For DVD's, this means I have to sort out the cast members and other important credits, plot summaries, MPAA ratings, aspect ratio, and so on. Most of this is available via the disc container, but I often check IMDb or even pop the disc in a portable DVD player (for example, if there is conflicting information about the language tracks or subtitles on the disc).

Below is the bottom panel of the back of the container for Psycho. What I have to pay attention to: the studio and/or production companies credited, the stars, the producers, the writers, the directors, the spoken languages, the subtitle languages, the aspect ratio (whether it's full-screen or letterboxed widescreen), the sound format (Dolby Digital 5.1, or stereo, or mono, etc.). I also must note the special features, the original release year of the film, and the release year of the disc.

For most of the items I do, I get the basic cataloging info from a number of sources, usually copying and editing records from the Library of Congress or other libraries. Below is a record I worked on for a book called Reality Hunger; I have to make sure that the first few lines, coded with letters and numbers, correspond to various aspects of the book (pub date, format, presence of illustrations or index, etc.). Lines from 100 and below consist of fairly straightforward information.

After the bib record is complete, I have to attach item records to represent each individual copy. Below is the way that record looks to the patron searching our catalog:

Every so often, I have to do an original record for some godforsaken book or DVD that no other library in the world owns. Though we catalogers love to complain about doing this, truth to tell, it actually can be challenging and fun. I recently had to create an original for a DVD that was donated to our collection. It wasn't even a movie, it was a compilation of features about a sculptor named Fredrick Hart. That record, below, was created from scratch by me, based on having the disc in front of me (though it had less information on the container than most DVD's) and on scouring the net to confirm some of the information:

That took a good half-hour of work which was frustrating but kind of fun, for an item that will probably never get checked out of the small suburban library for which I work--it was a donation which was in good shape, so we kept it. Below is one day's worth of DVD cataloging I did recently, mostly oddities and older titles that were re-ordered or donated:

The rating labels and the call numbers on the non-fiction DVD's are also put on by me; I'm not just a cataloger, but a processor as well ;-) More about this endlessly fascinating topic (it really is to me, though I know it's not to you) as the mood hits me--and as I find fun things to pictures of.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring has sprung

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the vernal equinox occurred yesterday afternoon, probably around the time that Don & I were walking to Starbucks for an after-lunch treat (he, an iced tea which he forgot to ask for unshaken, and me, a cinnamon dolce latte). I was blithely unaware that it was officially spring, but frankly ever since the snow stopped, right around March 1st (Central Ohio had measurable snow every damned day in February), it's felt like spring to me, and we have had a remarkably mild March so far. In the early evening, still not knowing about the equinox, I went outside and everything was so pleasant, I was moved to take a few pictures. As it turned out, I was capturing the arrival of spring. First, the pretty yellow flowers near our front porch--daffodils, I'm told--that survived the foot or so of snow beneath which their sprouts were buried:

For contrast, the ugly lump of ice/snow still left in the parking lot, despite several 60-degree days in a row. Of course, just a few weeks ago, this lump was a pile taller than a person, which went up far past the top of the brick wall behind it. (Kinda looks like The Blob, doesn't it?):

Finally, the gorgeous sunset, to which my little digital Kodak camera couldn't really do justice:

As I was snapping these pix, I was thinking, "If I didn't know better, I'd swear it had been a lovely spring day!" Now I come to find out, it was!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stephen Colbert and I have coffee

Not really, but as a Colbert fan, I was excited, first thing this morning, while I still had half-a-cup of coffee left, to be able to catalog the "graphic novel" collection of his comic strip alter ego Tek Jansen: